Merck CEO says $14B consumer sale is enough dealmaking for now

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier

Merck ($MRK) contributed to pharma's recent M&A wave by selling its $14.2 billion consumer health unit to Bayer. But hold it right there, Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier says: That's enough excitement for the New Jersey-based company for now, as far as he's concerned.

While Big Pharma peers like Pfizer ($PFE) may be chasing megadeals, Merck is more interested in promising medicines than tax inversions, Frazier said Tuesday in Boston, telling Bloomberg, "We're not serial mergers and acquirers."

Few could make that mistake, as the news service notes: Before 2009, when Merck picked up Schering-Plough in a $41 billion deal, the company's last major merger was with Sharpe & Dohme in 1953.

To some investors, that's a beautiful thing. With Merck, "no one really believes there is going to be much icing on the cake," Tony Scherrer, Smead Capital Management's director of research, told Bloomberg. "No one is paying for the chance that there will be. So the odds as an investor are very favorable."

The company's deliberateness frustrates others, however, who long to see the type of growth moves--like its $100-billion-plus bid for AstraZeneca ($AZN)--that Pfizer has made as of late, BMO Capital Markets analyst Alex Arfaei told Bloomberg.

But just because Frazier isn't eyeing a whopper--"Having done it once, it's not something you look forward to doing ever again," Merck's head of global human health Adam Schechter told Reuters of integrating large companies--doesn't mean Merck is bowing out of the M&A game altogether. After all, it's still sitting on an animal health unit Frazier said the company wanted to either shape up or ship out.

"We realize that we have to pay attention to things that are going on around us and take notice," Schechter told the news service. "We would be interested in looking at bolt-ons."

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